The way that college acim bookstore used to function in the past (the “good ol’ days here being earlier 1990’s”) is not the way that they function today. It used to be that the bookstore was owned and operated by the university or college, and had the interest of the students and the institution as its primary concern. The bookstore still made a profit, but this money stayed in campus and was used to benefit the students (this profit would cover a portion of tuition/fees). At some point there began a trend where the university would lease the acim bookstore out to a private company, essentially the university would off-shore the bookstore.
The bookstore would no longer be operated as a part of the school. This trend has continued until today, when most of the university acim bookstore are now owned and operated by a few private companies. These companies have been able to jack up prices on textbooks, as well as everything else sold in the bookstore, and increase profits, profits which, instead of going back into the school now go only to the company (and its shareholders when it applies).
Another less often talked about feature of the “friendly university bookstore” is that these stores operate in collusion with the school’s financial aid office. Schools have set up a system where a portion of the financial aid money (loans) received by students is put on the student ID, and this ID can then be used as a credit card at the bookstore. This was originally put in place to prevent students from spending their loan money on something else than tuition, fees or other school related material.
This simplification allows student loans to go directly from the bank to a private company, most often than not the corporation that owns the bookstore. Students are only allowed to use their loan money at the bookstore, which never offers the best prices. If students want to purchase books at a venue other than the bookstore, say at Amazon they must use their own money or credit cards.
The other option that the school financial aid office gives students is the option to receive a portion of their financial aid money as a check (money that is left over after tuition is paid). This option is seen as an alternative, giving students the freedom to buy their books anywhere they want, but the fact is that this option is very time consuming, it takes months to receive the check, and the process involves much paperwork.
When I was a student, not too long ago, I attempted to exercise this option on multiple occasions, and every semester that I did this I was required to spend hours at the financial aid office, making sure that I would receive my loan money, and every time that I asked for my money as a check it took until half of the semester for me to receive my money. Needless to say, the time to buy textbooks had come and gone by that time. Had I wanted the money put directly on my student ID, I could have spent it at the college bookstore immediately. Students who receive financial aid are therefore forced to use the university bookstore, paying substantially more money for the books than they would if they shopped around, and used a book price comparison site.